Tommy Gesme + Darrah Reid-McLean Talk 'ATLAS' by 686

Cover Photo: Erik Hoffman
Sequences: Colton Feldman
Words: Finn Westbury 

At the end of September, I found myself waking up in a panic in my hotel room in Annecy, France. The second I opened my eyes, I knew two things; one, 'ATLAS' is playing at the strange time of 12:15pm and two, I was up way too late the night prior for it to still be morning. I had been talking about my excitement to watch the video for days, but my roommates (and caring friends) Gian Sutter and Sebi Springeth left me to recoup from my late night. I check my phone - it’s 12:05. In a whirlwind, I make my way to the festival grounds where the video is being shown just in time to catch Darrah do her damn thing. But, as we all know now, that means I missed half of the movie.

Despite missing Tom and Riley footage, I was still more than happy to watch Darrah and Forest's sections. Plus, it gave me another reason to eagerly await the full video release. As if I really needed another reason - I found myself in Brasov, Romania this past winter a few days later than the 686 squad, and I witnessed first hand their path of destruction. At this point, they had checked off most of the best spots in town - spots so special that they stay on your mind through the summer in anticipation for seeing the footage come to life. 

Between my slightly worse-for-wear partial ‘ATLAS’ viewing earlier in the fall, and the recent release on November 13th, I had the pleasure of calling up Darrah Reid-McLean and Tommy Gesme to chat about working on the video together. There was a lot of good banter - we got a tour of Tommys new spot in the Twin Cities, meanwhile Darrah fit us into a busy family Hawaii trip schedule while a nearby landmower roared - but we cut it down to the choice words. Read below, get some insight into the process, and watch the video again because it’s really that good. 

Firstly, congratulations to you both on the upcoming release of the new video. How does this one feel, in comparison to past years?

Tom: It was awesome to film with Colton again, he’s the best. It all pieced together naturally. Was a bit last minute compared to years past - we weren’t sure it was going to happen until sometime in December. Normally we try to have a plan set in November. Even the first trip to Helsinki, I wasn’t even technically on yet. I wasn’t officially on until January 1st and that first trip was before Christmas. I’m so hyped that everything worked out haha.

Darrah: It was so different from anything else I've filmed before. In past years, I've had to do a lot of the trip planning - organizing and booking everything. Last year I just showed up and went along with what we were doing. It was nice, but I guess it was a little stressful with the uncertainty of things. Like Tom was saying, everything was very last minute. I remember thinking in January “maybe this is the year that I'm not even going to film street footage.” I had no idea whether I was going to be involved in this or not

Tom, I heard you were pretty vocal about getting Darrah in the mix once things started to line up for the video? How was it having Darrah on some trips? 

T: Yeah, and Colton definitely was as well. Colton was very adamant about trying to get Darrah involved. I think Darrah crushed. Putting myself in her shoes, I'm sure it wasn't easy. We had already done one trip - we're cruising. We got the day-to-day routine pretty dialed. So to get thrown into that, I'm sure it's not the most comfortable thing. Definitely very impressed. Darrah did her thing. If I got thrown into something like that, I don't think I would do as well. It’d be mad stressful.

Darrah, do you want to chime in on that at all? 

D: Tom pretty much nailed it. I was very aware of the fact that I was being thrown into a crew that already knew each other well, and had already figured out how they worked together - it was awkward at times. A lot of times, I had to be like, “fuck it, these guys aren’t familiar with my snowboarding. They're not familiar with the type of environment that I need to do well and I just have to be independent and do it on my own.” There were a lot of internal conversations and pep talks. Upon reflecting on it, there are ways that I could have handled things better and communicated my needs more clearly.  But for the most part, considering it was a challenging situation for me, I’m happy with how I dealt with it.

How was working with 686 to make this video happen?

T: It's been super smooth! From the start, they have been fully transparent about everything. Every trip, they were super supportive, and let us take the reins and pick the locations. Big time thanks and appreciation to all at 686. Also on the editing side, they put full trust in Colton to do his thing, which is so awesome.

D: It seems like they really trusted us to do our thing and just support what we wanted to do and they knew that we would come up with something great. And also on my end, I was with Pat and Brent when that initial Romania trip came up and they were very supportive and encouraging, telling me that I needed to go. They were great.

Seemed like there was a lot of travel and one-of-a-kind spots hit. What's it like snowboarding in all these different places?

D: I had never been on an international rail trip, so that was cool for me to be able to experience. Romania was so sick with the different architecture. It was wild to be in a place like that and be on a snowboard trip.

T: It’s the best. It's always so fun to go someplace new, it brings great energy to the van (laughs). Everyones all excited and motivated, so many spots that none of us have ever seen before, it rules. Truly amazing to get to travel the world with your friends and go snowboarding. Very grateful! 

So Darrah, you hit your first international rail trip and then shortly after, your second. Where else did you go? 

D: Norway. Well, we actually tried to do Sweden.

T: I'm 0 for 2 on Stockholm. I feel like it'd be the best place. This same exact scenario happened to us a couple of years ago where the forecast looks good, we go for it and you get three days there before it's rained out and you have to call an audible and drive to Norway, which is what we did a couple years ago as well. 

D: I feel like there was a bit of panic energy and it was like the last trip and the snow was kind of melting in Trondheim too by the time we got there. It got a little panicky, but it worked out.

T: Stockhold is such a cool city. Endless spots, endless natural speed. Everyone is so nice, minimal kick outs, but the damn weather. It's like, "it's worth it. Let's try it." The mid-trip melt out is the absolute worst. we’re all franticly looking into neighboring cities, checking the forecast, looking into snow conditions. Trying to stay calm but maybe slightly panicking - This trip in particular because it was our last trip filming for the video, so really wanted to end on a high note. One of these years I’m gonna hit Stockholm proper. 

Tom, you almost exclusively film with Colton, meanwhile Darrah, this was your first time on a trip with him. How was that? 

D: I loved watching Colton and Tom's relationship filming together because you could tell they have something really special. I feel like Colton’s very honest and patient, which I appreciate from a filmer. He would give me his feedback on what I was doing and how I could improve on it and what he thought. He was really helpful and he made everything look so good. Also, filming with Tom was amazing. He's so talented, but also extremely kind and hard working.  He was focused when he was the one snowboarding, but when it was someone else’s turn, he’d be doing everything he could to help that person. Always the last person to put the shovel down.      

T: Oh, it’s the best! I get to travel and hang all winter with one of my best friends, it rules. So grateful to have had the opportunity to film with him throughout the years. He’s able to bring out the best in everyone. He definitely pushes me to the best of my ability. Colton is so talented at what he does, but also with stuff behind the scenes. He’s so good at talking with people. Some of these spots that we end up hitting, we had no business snowboarding on. Colton can persuade a concerned citizen into being okay with us snowboarding - it's happened so many times.

D: He’s a sweet talker. The way he interacts with the general public and explains to them what what we're doing. It's wild, he's so good at talking to people. 

T: Hundred percent. He put a clip of Forest on his phone that was at like, the Bank of Brasov in Romania. Again, we had no business getting away with this spot. So somehow we're able to get that done and then Colton's got that clip on his phone, and then anytime there was an altercation, he's like “hey, check this out.” Everyone who lived in this city recognizes the building. He’s able to just explain to them that we got permission to do this, which we didn't, but it gets to the point where it's like, “oh, okay, you guys can do this.”

I can’t believe ya’ll got away with that spot. For those reading, it's this big marble spot at a Bank, right in the centre of the city. 

D: Part of it is Colton's sweet talking. And the other part of it is Forest's ability to handle pressure and land things so fast.

T: I couldn’t believe it either honestly. That spot was in the heart of the city center. Forest definitely thrives at a high pressure spot, it's really impressive

I feel like not a lot of people are actually willing to fully commit right off the bat.

TIt’s awesome filming with someone like Forest when we’re all working towards the same project. You see him do this incredible stuff so fast, I think it pushes everyone to try their best. Super motivating.

D: He's not fucking around. As soon as it's snowboard time, he is business time. He's so precise and he is going to do the trick and he's going to do it quick and perfect, it’s inspiring.

I mentioned, I missed half of the video, so I'm kind of going off of my gut feeling here, but it seems like Riley has some really good footage.

D: I wasn't with Riley for the first half of the winter, but what I saw on the two trips I went on with him, I felt like I could relate to him. He had some long, full day battles, maybe some instances of questioning himself, but he would just keep going, keep going. One of my favourite things to watch from both trips was Riley's fence ride. He got an okay one and I think he wanted to take it because he had already been battling for a while and we were about to get kicked out - there was a really upset guy next door. Anyways, he kept going and he just landed one perfectly and I could just feel his relief and happiness. It was just that tangible relief that the whole crew feels where you're just like, "ah, let's get in the fucking van."

T: That one was insane. And that was also just a whirlwind of a day, basically this super citizen was pretty bummed that we were there and they end up calling the cops. The cops come, they do not care at all. They're like, “oh, this is awesome, do your thing.” So we kind of got the green light, but that guy kind of got aggressive with Colton, tried to grab his camera. In the meantime, Riley doesn't really know what's happening because this spot's so big. He's way up there. We're down in the landing maybe making sure everything's all good, snow wise. I don't think he really knew that this guy is not chill, but we already got the green light from the police. So just one of those days where it's like, I hope this works, it should work. 

D: I thought for sure this guy was going to take Colton's camera and smash it on the ground. I'm trying to - I don't know what I thought I was going to do - protect Colton and trying to get in there anyways, it was crazy. That guy must've had a terrible life to be that upset about what was going on. I feel sorry for people like that. 

Where did Atlas clock in compare to your expectations as you went into filming? I know you mentioned earlier it was a little bit of a late start all things considered, but things came together. Are you all happy with the product?

T: Yeah, I think so. You always want more, right? You're never truly satisfied, but that's the beauty of it. You always wish you got the certain clip or just more footage, but I think that's normal feeling and a healthy feeling. I'm new to this program and new to the team, but everything's just been so smooth and especially I feel like on Colton's side, making this video and editing, they're kind of like, “yo, do your thing. We trust you.” Which to me, that's the biggest thing. 

D: I think the video overall is amazing. Colton did such a good job. Yeah, obviously I wish I could have filmed more. Looking back on the winter, I think I could have organized things differently and filmed more but I'm happy with what I managed to do on those two trips.

Thanks, you two. You both should be very proud - one last question. I gotta ask - Tom, what’s up with that tube spot in Romania? That's the type of spot you dream about. 

TThat was a super unique spot, was pretty psyched on that one (laughs). That day in particular was quite the fiasco. We were there for a couple hours in full stakeout mode because we had to wait for 5 cars to move out of the landing. I think they had all moved except for one, which at that point I was like "I'm not leaving this spot until that last car moves." Feels like the stars really aligned for us that day, eventually the last car moved and we were able to make it happen. This spot is one of those ones that you don’t really come across too often. In a way, that’s why you fly to Eastern Europe to go on a street trip, to find spots like this one. Very hyped it all worked out. Big shout out to the local homie Vlad for helping us that day!

If you're tryna look as fresh as Darrah, Tommy, Riley, and Forest - look no further than the 686 Atlas Riders Collection

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